C T M & U v LB Southwark, Court of Appeal, 12.7.2016
The Court of Appeal has held that support under s.17 Children Act 1989 for families without recourse to public funds should not be fixed inflexibly to other forms of statutory support and assessments should be in line with the statutory guidance produced under the CA 1989: ultimately, the quality of the assessment is what matters in terms of lawfulness. A local authority may cross-check its provision to other statutory support.
The Appellants were a family from abroad without recourse to public funds (“NRPF”) who were supported by Southwark pending an appeal against refusal of leave to remain. The challenge was to the amount of financial support given to the family.
Southwark did not have a written policy as regards support for NRPF families and carried out “bespoke” assessments of need which included analysis of the family’s expenditure and children’s welfare. The grounds of appeal addressed:
(a) Whether Southwark had an unlawful policy or practice of setting financial support to at the level of child benefit ;
(b) Whether after the decision of the Administrative Court in R (PO & Ors) v Newham London Borough Council  EWHC 2561 (Admin) the respondent had an unlawful policy or practice of setting financial support at the level of payments which would have been made to asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers by the Secretary of State under sections 4 and 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
(c) Whether Southwark breached the family’s article 8 ECHR rights because it provided them with financial support at a level less than that which it knew was necessary to prevent breach and, if so, are the appellants entitled to damages in respect of the breach?
The CA dismissed all grounds. It held that:
The headline from this case is that support for NRPF families should not be fixed inflexibly to other forms of statutory support and assessments should be in line with the statutory guidance produced under the CA 1989. A cross-check to other statutory support rates is permissible once there has been an assessment. It is likely to be the quality of assessment which is determinative of lawfulness rather than the rate of support.
The applications to admit fresh evidence and to rely on an additional ground of appeal were allowed but the appeal dismissed.
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